Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Explanation of Fantasy Ink

Every six months or so Bill Simmons re-pitches an excellent idea for an annual NBA publication. He proposes a document that contains pictures of players’ tattoos (by team) accompanied by explanations of what the ink means and why they chose it. I would SO read that. I find the psychology of tattoos fascinating…mainly because I am thinking about getting one. Here is a goofy fake interview which is how I would like my page to read in the Simmons Guide to NBA Tattoos if (A) if my unguarded field goal percentage didn’t hover around 7% and (B) if I actually had a tattoo:

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‘Sacramento Kings’ twelfth man[1] Stanford Gibson (#7) has a single tattoo on the inside of his left forearm. It is a mixture of traditional and unconventional body art themes featuring a skull (traditional) held pensively by some sort of robed monk (untraditional). Here is the conversation we had with him:

SG: It was inspired by Caravaggio’s St Francis in Prayer . It is an existential theme that life is most fully experienced in light of our mortality.
SGTNT: So, it’s sort of a Heidegger thing you’ve got going on.

SG: I’m closer to Kierkegaard than Heidegger. And actually, I’d like to think I’m closer to Jesus than either of them. Meditation on mortality is a source of joy rather than despair. And I think the figure of Francis illustrates this more than almost any one else living or dead. He was a man of desperate joy and he lived like he knew that each of his moments was filled with ultimate value. I think this is, in a strange way, what the Christian and the secular existentialist have in common. For a Sartre or a Camus each moment was filled with ultimate value because this life is all we have. For Francis and the rest of us who hope in Christ, each moment is filled with ultimate value because the implications reverberate through eternity. Remember, two of the three authors[2] credited as proto-existentialists were Christians. The movement has its roots in both visions of ultimate value.

SGTNT: When did you get it and why?

SG: It was in my early 30’s when I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. I felt like I was too young to be loosing organs[3]. But it connected me experientially to my mortality at a relatively young age. I got the tattoo as a reminder of the ultimate value of each moment. There is a line from one of my favorite ancient poems[4] that pretty much articulates why I got it: “The length of our days is seventy years-eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass and we fly away…Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

The other thing is that I was raised to think that getting a tattoo was the surest sign of poor judgment because you have it forever. But that is precisely why I got it. Because I won’t have it forever. It has an expiration date that is approximately the same as mine. I will only have the thing for something between 30 seconds and 60 years. It is a reminder to both celebrate the deterioration of my body and to struggle with each breath to make my few moments count.

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[1]Another Simmons theory is that NBA teams go about 7 to 9 deep and have no need for their 12th man, so they should use the slot as a marketing scheme and make it a blogger like Paul Shirley. I am afraid that that is as far as my imagination can take this.
[2] Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche
[3] The main treatment for Graves disease is to ingest a dose of radioactive iodine that kills your thyroid.
[4] Psalm 90

2 comments:

JMBower said...

Best. Tattoo. Ever.

Sadly, I think a similar interview with me would go something along the lines of:

Simmons: So we're here with deputy assistant to the assistant to the waterboy for the Knicks, Justin Bower. Mr. Bower, you got a tattoo, would you care to tell us about it?

Bower: It's a tree.

Simmons: so what does it mean to you, why do you have it?

Bower: I like trees. Is it time for lunch yet?

stanford said...

Simmons just mentioned the proposed book again:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3928400